Issue#:5 Volume#: 32
Combat Voice of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)
FRONT PAGE COMMENT| FRONT PAGE COMMENT
IT’s YOUR CHOICE When Workers Vote
Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, that virtual pioneer of organised labour in Guyana, put it this way, “Politics follows you from the cradle to the grave”. In other words, whether you vote or not, whether you are “interested” in politics or not, politics and politicians impact upon every aspect of your life. Elections, as a fundemental component of democracy, give us government and opposition. Their decisions, policies and programmes determine prices of everything; their management or mismanagement of our national economy dictates our quality of life - our employment, education, housing, transportation, medical services, etc. GAWU’s own freedom fighter and onetime President of the Republic, Dr Cheddi Jagan, embraced the labour movement as he launched his anti-colonical struggle in and out of Parliament. Workers of Guyana, therefore, ought to have an active interest in the November 28, General and Regional Elections. COMBAT and GAWU offer the following considerations as background to all workers importance with respect to the vote. Workers as Voters It is a sad and unfortunate fact but a fact nevertheless: most of Guyana’s workers are not organised, registered or unionised. Continued on the back page COMBAT: September/October, 2011
Whither the Sugar Industry
The Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (Guysuco) in its current crop has produced 9 4 , 4 5 3 tonnes of sugar as at October 28, 2011 and 201,324 tonnes for the year h a v i n g producing 106,871 tonnes in the first duction target of 282,712 tonnes? A recent pubcrop. Production at the various estates was as fol- lic statement by the Corporation’s Deputy Chief lows:Executive Officer indicated that the target would be achieved. During the past years, when the Estate Crop Production Year Production Skeldon 12,258 22,993 Corporation miserably failed to achieve its yearly Albion 18,778 47,282 production targets, unfavourable weather, poor attendance by workers and strikes directed by Rose Hall 19,484 34,914 GAWU were given by the Corporation as excuses. Blairmont 17,300 34,911 It is important that the mentioned reasons could Enmore 9,654 19,133 not be hurled by the Corporation should the tarLBI 4,210 get not be achieved even with a ten (10) per cent Wales 7,850 18,603 deficit since there has been no centrally organized Uitvlugt 9,129 19,579 strike, the weather has been conducive for harTotal 94,453 201,324 vesting and there would be the full harvest of the crop. The sugar industry of Guyana continues to play Despite a few rainy days over the past months, the weather forecast indicates generally favour- a gigantic role in feeding, housing and clothing a able weather prevailing until the scheduled end of sizeable number of the Guyanese population. Its the year. Enmore is the last estate which is sched- multifaceted function in the country’s economy uled to end its crop on week-ending December 09, reaches out to every citizen. The economy secures 2011. Surely reaping will continue on some estates a sizeable part of its foreign exchange which is sigafter their scheduled closure dates since there nificantly nett. The achievement of maximum sugar production every year must, therefore, be fully might be canes yet to reap. Will the Corporation attain its year’s revised pro- pursued by the stakeholders. Page One
GAWU awards Bursaries Our Union, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), conducted its yearly award of bursaries to members’ children. On August 31, 2011, twenty-four (24) children who were successful at the National Grade Six Examinations were pleased to receive their bursaries. Those awarded secured the highest numbers of marks among the children of the Union’s membership within the various branch areas of the Union. The presentation for members’ children in Berbice was held at the Union Office in New Amsterdam, while recipients in Demerara received their bursaries at the Union’s Headquarters in Kingston, Georgetown. Parents accompanied their children for the simple, yet
meaningful awards ceremonies. Principal of the GAWU Labour College, Navin Chandarpal, congratulated the students on their achievements. He encouraged them to continue their studies to gain good results at their CXC examinations. He opined that, in this Information Age, a sound education is almost compulsory to pursue life and work after school. Similar sentiments were expressed at the Berbice function by the Union’s acting Supervisor, Harvey Tambron. Parents, as well as students, felt elated at the Union’s gesture, and expressed their satisfaction to the Union for its encouragement of their children in their future studies.
The job evaluation exercise with respect to approximately 5,500 time-rated workers within the two (2) bargaining units of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is nearing completion.
influence the newly adopted wage rates of the time-rated workers falling under the Union’s two bargaining units in the industry.
Job Evaluation continuing
The evaluators, comprising representatives from the Union and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco), are at the second stage of the tedious three-phase exercise. The soon-to-be-completed second phase, whereby points are allocated, is the most time consuming phase. Points are awarded in keeping with the Hay Methodology, which evaluates a job based on three dimensions:• Know-How: assesses the level of knowledge, skill and experience to perform the job successfully • Problem Solving: takes into account the level of thinking required to successfully execute the job • Accountability: looks at the impact the job has on the organization The last phase is the compensation survey. In this phase, rates of pay of similar jobs from local companies will be acquired. Such rates would significantly COMBAT: September/October, 2011
The job evaluation exercise has its genesis in the Prem Persaud Tribunal, which was a three-person Arbitration Tribunal that determined wage/salary increase for the years 2002 and 2003. It was headed by former Chief Justice Prem Persaud, and included former Major General of the Guyana Defence Force, Norman McLean, and former Executive Director of the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industries, David Yankana. For years 2002 and 2003, the Tribunal awarded six and five per cent respectively for workers belonging to the bargaining units of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) in the sugar industry. The Tribunal rescinded merit increment to all time-rated workers of the industry and recommenced a job evaluation exercise with a view to allow all non-piecerated workers to receive appropriately determined pay rates.
Credit Union AGM slated for October 30th The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Co-operative Credit Union Society Limited (Reg. # 2000) convenes its 18th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on (Sunday) October 30, 2011 at Umana Yana, Kingston, Georgetown, commencing at 09:00h. Members of the society from the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GUYSUCO) and from many of the fourteen (14) other bargaining units of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) are expected to attend the AGM. Members who do not belong to the Union’s bargaining units will also attend.
The reports of the Management and the Supervisory committees are important highlights of the AGM. Members attending Annual General Meeting usually look forward to determining the quantum of the interest rebate and dividend arising from the surplus of the operations of the Credit Union for year 2010. At last, the AGM will facilitate the election of an eleven-member Committee of Management and a three-member Supervisory Committee to manage the affairs and work of the Society until the next Annual General Meeting of 2012.
CCL delegation visits Guyana
From left to right: Sir Roy Trotman, member of the CCL General Council and Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and former President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Union (ICFTU); Sylvia Leacock, Administrative Secretary of CCL; Senator, the Honourable David Messiah, President of CCL; Cde Ann Marie Burkes, first Vice-President of CCL; and, Senator, the Honourable Chester Humphrey, General Secretary of CCL
The Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) concluded a three (3) day visit to Guyana on October 06, 2011 during which meetings were held with the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG). The CCL delegation of five (5) was led by Senator, the Honourable David Messiah, President of the CCL, and included the General Secretary of CCL, Senator, the Honourable Chester Humphrey, Sir Roy Trotman, member of the CCL General Council and Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), and former President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The delegation also comprised CCL first Vice-President, Ann Marie Burkes, and Administrative Secretary Sylvia Leacock. The CCL delegation held talks with both trade union federa-
tions (FITUG and GTUC) on the essential question of unifying the Guyana Labour Movement, an effort which the CCL has been engaged in since 2007. The CCL is also to consider an application of affiliation from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), a matter which will be deliberated at its upcoming General Council meeting carded for Barbados. Discussions between the CCL and the TUC as well as with FITUG, explored possible mechanisms upon which the process of unification of the movement may be possible. The CCL emphasized the important role that the Guyana Labour Movement has to play within the Region to advance the cause of labour and to strengthen its voice. Page Two
API agreement inked
-Workers could receive as much as 9 days’ pay
tion equivalent to 31,200 tonnes of sugar. The Corporation had initially proposed, by letter dated August 24, 2011, to the Union that on the attainment of 270,000 tonnes of sugar, six (6) days’ pay would be awarded; and should the industry fail to produce 250,000 tonnes sugar for the year, there would be no award. The Union responded by letter dated August 30, 2011 seeking eight (8) days’ pay for the production of 240,000 tonnes sugar. The Union insisted in its GAWU’s President, Komal Chand, and Guysuco’s Human Resources Director, Jairam Petam, display letter that API, formerly the signed agreement in the presence of the Chief Labour Officer, Yoganand Persaud, GAWU Gen- titled Annual Production eral Secretary Seepaul Narine, workers’ representatives, and other Guysuco officials Bonus (APB), is a form of deferred payment and, The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (Guysu- therefore, whatever the year’s production, there must co), on September 08, 2011, inked an agreement pav- be an appropriate award. It took just two (2) meetings, which were held on Seping the way for the award of Annual Production Incentive (API) for this year (2011). Through the agreement, tember 01 and 05, 2011, for the Union and the Corpoworkers will receive one (1) day’s pay as API for produc- ration to complete the negotiations. At the first meet-
ing the Corporation dropped its proposal for no API in event that only 250,000 tonnes sugar were produced. The Union, at the same meeting, proposed the new formula that a day’s pay be based on a certain quantity of sugar. At the second meeting, the Corporation accepted the formula, and after a short haggling the parties agreed to the equivalent of 31,200 tonnes of sugar for every day’s pay. Taking into account, the Corporation’s revised target of 282,712 tonnes set at the beginning of the current crop, should it be achieved, qualified workers would each receive 9.06 days’ pay. The year’s production which stands at 201,324 tonnes sugar as at October 28, 2011 already entitles workers to 6.5 days’ pay. The union, in a statement prior to the signing of the Agreement, noted “that the Corporation, unlike in recent years, exercised wisdom to settle the wage adjustment and API award,months prior to the conclusion of the second crop in the year.“ The statement went on to say that “in recent years, there was much controversy and confrontation between the parties on the resolution of these issues, not forgetting last year…the Corporation’s threat to hijack the Recognition Agreement subsisting since 1976 between the union and the corporation.” With the early resolution of the wage/salary hike and API, the industry’s workforce is now much energized and is diligently pursuing reaping available canes across the industry.
GAWU in soldarity with WFTU on International Action Day established i n Paris, France as the intern a tional wo r kers organization, assembling t h e world’s Workers in India taking part in a protest march in observance of WFTU International p r o gresOn the occasion of International Action sive trade unions and federations in a Day, October 03, 2011, as designated by global outreach to represent the opthe World Federation of Trade Unions pressed working-class against the self(WFTU), the Guyana Agricultural and ishness of capitalism. General Workers Union (GAWU) extends GAWU, therefore, today records its its congratulations and active solidarity agreement with and pursuit of all the with the objectives and ideals enshrined objectives of this Third International Acin the observance. tion Day, which are: social security for It is not by accident that 3rd October was all; collective bargaining and agreements chosen to celebrate International Action as the bedrock of trade union represenDay for it was on this date in 1945, sixtation of the world’s working-class; trade ty-six (66) year ago, that the WFTU was union and democratic freedoms and the COMBAT: September/October, 2011
pursuit of a five-day, 7-hour daily working week with better salaries. GAWU’s International outlook also coincides with International Action Day’s demand that the Cuban Five incarcerated in American jails be freed. GAWU also condemns the persecution of the Palestinian peoples, whose lands have been misappropriated by Israeli settler greed with support from the USA and other Western powers. And even as the world’s economic crisis bites into the economies of Europe and the USA itself; even as innocent Third World nations are made to feel the consequences of Western Capitalist greed and financial corruption, the GAWU recalls the recent historic Sixteenth Congress of the WFTU in Athens last April, where GAWU’s President, now a member of its Presidential Council, gave these assurances:“Comrades, we are witnessing today a revitalized activism across the globe. The working class are in the frontline of today’s fresh struggles. Changes of a profound nature are beckoning. We need to go confidently and unitedly forward to influence and bring about such changes in our lives, our societies, and globally.
“Our past struggles brought us many laudable gains; our present struggles also hold the promise of significant advances while preventing capitalism/imperialism from riding roughshod over our lives. “The WFTU has a packed agenda of critical issues to address. However, the world situation demands that we face up to and make our decisive contributions to these questions. And, as we continue in our tasks to take on the challenges of our times, let us draw inspiration from Karl Marx’s clarion call which has come down through the decades:“Workers of all lands unite! The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains! They have a world to win Long live Proletarian Internationalism!” On the occasion of this Third International Action Day, GAWU sends its active solidarity to all activities engaged in today by all WFTU affiliates. Long Live WFTU-GAWU solidarity. Page Three
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US and NATO Murder Muammar Gaddafi By Bill Van Auken The savage killing of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi serves to underscore the criminal character of the war that has been prosecuted by the US and NATO over the past eight months. The assassination follows NATO’s more-than-month-long siege of Sirte, the Libyan coastal city that was Gaddafi’s hometown and a centre of his support. The assault on this city of 100,000 left virtually every building smashed; with untold numbers of civilians dead, wounded and stricken by disease, as they were deprived of food, water, medical care and other basic necessities. Gaddafi was apparently travelling in a convoy of vehicles attempting to break out of the siege after the last bastion of resistance had fallen to the NATO-backed “rebels”. NATO warplanes attacked the convoy at 8.30 a.m. Thursday morning, leaving a number of vehicles in flames and preventing the convoy from moving forward. Then the armed anti-Gaddafi militias moved in for the kill. The death of Gaddafi appears to have been part of a larger massacre that has reportedly claimed the lives of a number of his top aides, loyalist fighters, and his two sons, Mo’tassim and Saif al-Islam. While details of the killings remain somewhat clouded, photographs and cell phone videos released by the NATObacked “rebels” clearly show a wounded Gaddafi struggling with his captors and shouting as he is dragged onto the back of a vehicle. His stripped and lifeless body is then shown, drenched in blood. It seems clear that, having first been wounded, perhaps in the NATO air strikes, the former Libyan ruler was captured alive and then summarily executed. One photograph shows him with a bullet hole in the head. Gaddafi’s body was then taken west to the city of Misrata, where it was reportedly dragged through the streets before being deposited in a mosque. The fate of the body is politically significant in that it was seized by a Misrata militia faction that is operating under its own command and has no loyalty to the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC), which Washington and NATO have anointed as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Libyan people. Thus this grisly event, which President Barack Obama hailed in the White House Rose Garden as the advent of “a new and democratic Libya,” in reality only exposes the regional and tribal fault lines that are setting the stage for a protracted period of civil war. Both the US and France claimed credit for their roles in the murder of Gaddafi. The Pentagon asserted on Thursday that a US Predator drone had fired a Hellfire missile at the ousted Libyan leader’s convoy, while France’s defense minister said that French warplanes had bombed it. The US and NATO had carried out repeated air strikes on Gaddafi’s compounds in Tripoli and other homes where they suspected he was hiding since shortly after the brutal air war against Libya was launched last March. One of these strikes at the end of last April claimed the lives of his youngest son and three young grandchildren. Washington had deployed surveillance planes along with large numbers of drones in an attempt to track down Gaddafi; while US, British and French intelligence agents, special operations troops and military “contractors” operating on the ground also participated in this manhunt. Just two days before the murder of Gaddafi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton staged an unannounced visit to Tripoli on a heavily armed military aircraft. While there, she issued a demand that Gaddafi be brought in “dead or alive”. As the Associated Press reported, Clinton declared “in unusually blunt terms that the United States would like to see former dictator Muammar Gaddafi dead”. “‘We hope he can be captured or killed soon so that you don’t have to fear him any longer’’, Clinton told students and others at a town hall-style gathering in the capital city,” the AP report disclosed COMBAT: September/October, 2011
The AP went on to note: “Until now, the US has generally avoided saying that Gaddafi should be killed.” Yet in reality, Washington is pursuing an unconcealed policy of state murder. In this case, it has openly advocated and provided every resource to facilitate the killing of a head of state with whom the US government had established close political and commercial relations over the course of the last eight years. The battered corpse of Gaddafi’s son Mo’tassim, who was also captured alive and then executed, was put on display in Misrata. As recently as April 2009, he was warmly welcomed to the US State Department by Hillary Clinton. In his Rose Garden speech Thursday, Obama boasted of his administration having “taken out” al Qaeda leaders, sounding for the all world like a Mafia don, minus the charm. Among his most recent victims are two US citizens - Anwar Awlaki, the Arizona-born Yemeni-American Muslim cleric, last month, and two weeks later, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, who was born in Denver. Both had been placed on a “kill list” by a secret National Security Council subcommittee and murdered with Hellfire missiles. Abdulrahman was blown to bits along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other friends as they ate dinner. The killing of Gaddafi is the culmination of a criminal war that killed untold numbers of Libyans and left most of the country in ruins. This operation was launched on the pretext of protecting civilian lives, based on the trumped up claim that Gaddafi was preparing to lay siege to the eastern city of Benghazi to massacre his opponents. It has ended with NATO orchestrating a siege of Sirte, where thousands have been killed and wounded in suppressing opposition to the “rebels”. From the beginning, the entire operation had been directed at the re-colonization of North Africa and pursued on behalf of US, British, French, Italian and Dutch oil interests. While over the past decade Gaddafi had curried favour with US, Britain, France and other Western powers, striking oil deals, arms agreements and other pacts, US imperialism and its counterparts in Europe continued to see his regime as an impediment to their aims in the region. Among the principal concerns in Washington, London and Paris were the increasing Chinese and Russian economic interests in Libya and more generally Africa as a whole. China had developed $6.6 billion in bilateral trade, mainly in oil, while some 30,000 Chinese workers were employed in a wide range of infrastructure projects. Russia, meanwhile, had developed extensive oil deals, billions of dollars in arms sales, and a $3 billion project to link Sirte and Benghazi by rail. There were also discussions on providing the Russian Navy with a Mediterranean port near Benghazi. Gaddafi had provoked the ire of the government of Nicolas Sarkozy in France with his hostility to its scheme for creating a Mediterranean Union aimed at refurbishing French influence in the country’s former colonies and beyond. Moreover, major US and Western European energy conglomerates increasingly chafed at what they saw as tough contract terms demanded by the Gaddafi government, as well as the threat that the Russian oil company Gazprom would be given a big stake in the exploitation of Libya’s reserves. Combined with these economic and geo-strategic motives were political factors. The turn by Gaddafi toward closer relations with the West had allowed Washington and Paris to cultivate elements within his regime who were prepared to collaborate in an imperialist takeover of the country. This includes figures like Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi’s former Justice Minister and now chairman of the NATO-backed NTC, and Mahmoud Jibril, the former economics official who is chief of the NTC Cabinet. With the popular upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt on Libya’s western and eastern borders the US and its NATO allies saw an opportunity to put into operation a plan that had been developed over some time for regime change in Libya. With agents on the ground, they moved to exploit and hijack anti-Gaddafi
demonstrations and foment an armed conflict. To prepare for a direct imperialist takeover, they followed a wellw o r n p at h , vilifying the count r y ’ s leader and promoting the idea that only outside intervention could save innocent civilians from a looming massacre. The supposed imminent destruction of Benghazi was utilized to win support for imperialist war from a whole range of ex-leftists, liberals, academics and human rights advocates, who lent their moral and intellectual weight to an exercise in imperialist aggression and murder. Figures like University of Michigan’s Middle Eastern History Professor Juan Cole, who had raised limited criticism of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, became enthusiastic promoters of the “humanitarian” mission of the Pentagon and NATO in Libya. Representative of an upper middle class social layer that has become a new constituency for imperialism, they were utterly compromised, politically and morally. They were untroubled by the lawlessness of the entire enterprise and the mounting evidence of the murder and torture of immigrants and black Libyans by the so-called rebels. Their attempt to portray the regime change in Libya as a popular revolution becomes more preposterous with each passing day. The unstable puppet regime that is taking shape in Benghazi and Tripoli has been installed through relentless and massive NATO bombing, murder, and the wholesale violation of international law. Libya stands as a warning to the world. Any regime that gets in the way of US interests, runs afoul of the major corporations, or fails to do the bidding of the NATO powers can be overthrown by military force, with its leaders murdered. Already, the US media, which has staged a hideous celebration of the bloodbath outside Sirte, is braying for NATO to repeat its Libyan intervention in Syria. For her part, Clinton warned Pakistani leaders on Thursday that insufficient support for the US-war in Afghanistan would mean that they would pay “a very big price.” There can be no doubt that future operations are on the way, with bigger wars coming into focus, posing catastrophic consequences. The Obama administration has already put Iran on notice that all options remain “on the table” in relation to a fabricated plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. And as the Libyan intervention was aimed in no small part at countering Chinese and Russian influence both in the region and globally, so China and Russia themselves are seen as future targets. The bloody events in Libya and the economic motives underlying them are providing a fresh lesson in the real character of imperialism. The crisis gripping world capitalism is once again posing the threat of world war. The working class can confront this threat only by mobilizing its independent political strength and rearming itself with the programme of world socialist revolution to put an end to the profit system, which is the source of militarism. Page Four
Next low-wage haven: USA INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL | INTERNATIONAL
“I worked for 10 bucks an hour with no overtime for around 66 hours a week,” Duncan said. “Then I’d get laid off for a week or more at a time with no notice.” At a GM plant in Lake Orion, Michigan, north of Detroit, contractors hire young third-tier workers at $10 an hour or less to gather parts for assemblers, work done very recently by GM employees. These kids are union members, though they don’t have a contract yet. The United Auto Workers convinced the contractors to let them organize the workforce through card check. “There are more people there handling parts than building cars,” said Dan Theisen, a plant electrician. Many of the union assemblers are themselves Inside a General Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan. Within five years certain second-tier workers paid less than the U.S. manSouthern U.S. states will be among the cheapest manufacturing locations in the ufacturing average, with wages of $14.60 and developed world—and competitive with far-away China no pensions. “It makes it hard to do anything for the second By Jane Slaughter tier when the third tier is so bad,” said Theisen, a dissident who’s spoken against lowering GM wages. Jokes about the U.S. becoming “Europe’s Mexico” are commonplace, but now high-priced consultants are pushing the ALREADY A TREND? notion in all seriousness. They’re predicting that, within five years, certain Southern Among the U.S. companies rethinking their production locaU.S. states will be among the cheapest manufacturing locations are Ford, Caterpillar, an ATM company building a plant tions in the developed world—and competitive with China. in Georgia, and Wham-O Inc., which returned Frisbee proFor years, advisers like the Boston Consulting Group got paid duction to California and Michigan. big bucks to tell their clients to produce in China. Now, they Master Lock is bringing work back to Milwaukee from China. say, rising wages there, fuelled by worker unrest; and low GE, enticed by federal stimulus money, will be making green wages in Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina mean that refrigerators in Indiana with Electrical Workers (IBEW) memsoon it won’t be worth the hassle of locating overseas. bers instead of in Mexico. Wages for China’s factory workers certainly aren’t going to And Suarez Manufacturing Industries has been lauded for rise to U.S. levels soon. BCG estimates they will be 17 per relocating production of a space heater from China to North cent of the projected U.S. manufacturing average—$26 an Canton, Ohio. hour for wages and benefits—by 2015. After experiencing lengthy transit times from Asia, CEO and But because American workers have higher productivity, North Canton native Ben Suarez painstakingly put together a and since rising fuel prices are making it even more expenchain of suppliers from within the U.S. In a former IBEW Hoosive to ship goods half way around the world, costs in the ver vacuum factory, abandoned in 2007 in favor of Mexico, two countries are converging fast. he’s now contracted with two companies to supply the plant Dan Luria, research director of the Michigan Manufacturing with labor. Technology Center, says many of the big-name consultancies, Wages will run from $7.50 an hour (general labor) to $10 which until a year ago were advising their clients to “Asiafy (assemblers) to $16 (programmers). Federal minimum wage their footprints,” are now telling companies to think twice. is $7.25. BCG bluntly praises Mississippi’s “flexible unions/workers, The plant will soon employ 100-150 workers in full-time minimal wage growth, and high worker productivity,” estijobs. As production ramps up, others will be guaranteed mating that in four years, workers in China’s fast-growing seasonal work, October through March. The plant received Yangtze River Delta will cost only 31 per cent less than Mis3,000 applications, according to the company’s Lauren Capo. sissippi workers. That’s before you figure in shipping, duties, and possible NOT YET quality issues. Add it all up, says BCG, and “China will no longer be the default low-cost manufacturing location.” The Steelworkers union has long agitated for a manufacturing renaissance in the United States, arguing that an econoALREADY COMPETITIVE my that doesn’t make things is weak and unsustainable. In 2007 the union initiated the Alliance for American ManufacActually, employers deciding where to produce the next turing, a partnership with employers. generation of widgets may not need to look to the South. AAM Executive Director Scott Paul says there’s no hard Plenty of factory jobs in Northern states even in the former evidence yet that manufacturers are actually returning from high-wage stronghold of auto are already “competitive.” China in enough numbers to constitute a trend. Ford’s flagship Dearborn Truck plant outside Detroit, for exRather, various consultants are now telling their clients to ample, contracts non-union workers to do inspection and reconsider the U.S. They’re the same consulting class that pairs long the coveted jobs that workers could get only with “popped up around the time of NAFTA with ‘yes you can in many years’ seniority at $10 an hour with no benefits. Yucatan,’” he said. That’s more than the Chinese average now, but less than Paul cites the factors that could converge to bring more what’s projected for 2015. work to these shores: Brad Duncan, who worked at the plant last year, said it seemed like dozens of small companies were involved. Many • Costs of labour and commodities are rising on the Chipay people as “independent contractors,” he said, and are nese coasts, as workers demand higher pay. If compaessentially fly-by-night operations. COMBAT: September/October, 2011
nies move further inland to poorer areas, they hike their logistics costs. •
In most of the world, the dollar is worth 25 per cent less than three years ago, and in China 5 per cent less.
Shipping costs are increasing because of rising energy costs.
Companies fear that in China they’ll lose their intellectual property to spin-off competitors.
Some consumers prefer an American-made product.
The U.S. has an abundance of skilled but unemployed workers.
• And U.S. wages are stagnant or even falling. But, Paul notes, if companies choose to build in the lowestcost states as Japanese automakers have done for nearly 30 years “it quickly becomes a state vs. state competition, a race to the bottom. If South Carolina can offer lower wages, so can Mexico.” WHAT KIND OF JOBS? Will factory jobs flood into Michigan and Mississippi at just above minimum wage? Or is that still not cheap enough? The fact remains that the decisions are all made by corporations seeking the greatest profit in a dog-eat-dog world. As Michael Zinser, one of the co-authors of the BCG report, told Labor Notes, “Location is agnostic. It’s a question of what the market will bear.” Luria predicts that some manufacturers will indeed leave China, but sees the move will mainly benefiting Mexico and Eastern Europe. Paul, from the manufacturing alliance, wants to see the government step in and influence those location decisions through government policy, as it did with the domestic content requirements in the 2009 Recovery Act and the HighSpeed Rail Bill. The German multinational Siemens located a train factory in Sacramento, California, as a result, he said. Likewise, clean energy loans, grants, and tax credits led to 18 new advanced battery factories in Michigan (though not at high wages). “None of this would be possible without public investment,” Paul said. HANDS-OFF Mostly, of course, the Obama administration has taken a hands-off approach to what business should do; instead, providing cash on request in the bank and auto bailouts. UAW dissidents said the auto bailout was a giant missed opportunity to steer their industry toward clean products built in the U.S. at decent wages. Unions and consumer groups protested because the banks were saved but stiff regulations were not attached to their checks. Paul notes that government policies to promote industry are the norm elsewhere, in old capitalist countries as well as in new ones like China. He fears the absence of such government help leaves U.S. workers with only one bargaining chip and that’s not a happy one. “Low wages won’t be the factor that compels companies to locate in the U.S.,” he said. “But absent a national economic development strategy where there is a focus on manufacturing, that’s what we’re left with.”
FITUG salutes “Occupy Wall Street” Protesters Worldwide Like a Tree Standing by the Water
It started with the courage and vision of a group of working-class-oriented young Americans who were both outraged and mobilized enough to protest the worsening fate of America’s “ninety-nine per cent” poor, whose blood, sweat, tears and taxes subsidise the wealth of one per cent that is that weakening “super power’s” upper-class. In mid-September, some young Americans began peaceful demonstrations on Wall Street, the symbol and heart of America’s financial power structure. Those demonstrators camped out for days to attract focus on the fact that they were victims of unemployment, underwater homes, foreclosures, and the huge bank frauds which buried America’s financial system between 2008 and 2009. The “Occupy Wall Street” swiftly metamorphosed from a protest to a movement, now very much alive from New York to Boston, to Las Vegas to Seattle, to every city feeling the crunch of a recession. Today, Occupy Wall Street has become global! The strug-
gling workers of London, Frankfurt, Milan, Athens and elsewhere have all mounted protests at representatives of financial institutions, including state banks, governments, the huge corporate transnationals, stock exchanges, and all symbols of wealth built on the backs of the working class. It is against that background that the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) is anxious to support this worker-friendly movement and to send its greetings and active solidarity. As events of a political nature in the Middle East unfolded earlier this year and the financial meltdowns struck the middle class and the poor across Europe, suffering Americans wondered just when their own representatives would organize themselves, even as state governors and governments sought to blame real economic crisis on the workers, withdrawing unions’ bargaining rights and hard-earned benefits. Now FITUG notes how a spontaneous spark of pressure and outrage has ignited an American and global protest against the known ills of Capitalism. FITUG notes that after President Obama inherited his country’s economic woes, he responded with bailouts and stimulus packages. The American banks, brokers and business class again became the beneficiaries of government’s interventions, but the American Main Street workers still struggle to keep their jobs, homes, healthcare and dignity. FITUG commends the American trade unions for throwing their militant solidarity behind the now organized demonstrators. It is now recognised that pressure has to induce swift, emergency political will to change the system, where
“one per cent” sucks “ninety-nine per cent” dry. Even the mighty International Monetary Fund (IMF) is awakening to the financial/economic realities of the spreading fiscal crisis. FITUG notes two observers’ conclusions:“The IMF and the U. S. political class do not wish to challenge the financial class. Indeed, the IMF warns against “financial repression,” With sovereigns under financing stress and economies struggling to deleverage, policymakers may be tempted to suppress or circumvent financial market processes and information. This is to be avoided, says the IMF. They want the saviors to come from the Global South, which, the IMF notes, “are at a more advanced phase in the credit cycle.” What the IMF would like to see is China and India turn over their surpluses to the North as stimulus for these countries to export less and import more.” “The taxpayers of Germany, France, the Netherlands and other prosperous Eurozone countries will have to dip into their pockets too, but their money won’t do anything to alleviate rocketing poverty in Greece, Portugal or Ireland. It will instead go into the pockets of French, German and American bankers.” The American and other organized have solidified their own conclusions as to remedies in the interest of their working class and eventually the solutions to benefit their national economies. FITUG urges all Guyanese to actively follow these worldwide events as they unfold. Meanwhile, FITUG sends its support to Occupy Wall Street worldwide movement. And it recalls the inspirational words of a Battle Song first written for America’s struggling labourers on strike: “Like A Tree That’s Standing By The Water, We Shall Not Be Moved!” Our solidarity to America’s and the world’s workers!
Meet Sookhnaryan - 45 years in sugar
In this edition of Combat, we profile a former outstanding stalwart of the Union, Cde Sookhnaryan, also known as Tony, who worked at Skeldon Estate for forty five (45) years. Sookhnaryan who was born on September 13, 1943 at Crabwood Creek, Corentyne, Berbice, provided dedicated and regular services to the Guyana Sugar Corporation. Sookhnaryan who has seven (7) siblings parented by Pokhai and Chawrappe, who worked at Skeldon Estate as a planter and weeder respectively, recalled that he attended Crabwood Creek Canadian Mission School from 1949 to June, 1953. At the end of his schooling he worked first as a labourer at a sawmill in the Crabwood Creek for five (5) years. In April 1958, he secured his first estate job as a labourer in the Creole (fertilizer) gang. After two (2) years, he joined the pest control gang; and in 1965, he became a cane cutter until mid-1969 when the management of the estate transferred him to the Mechanical Tillage gang as a bed pump operator. Later, he worked as a Dondi operator and finally as an irrigator operator until he retired at aged 60 in 2003. Cde Sookhnaryan recalled that, while COMBAT: September/October, 2011
he was a pump operator, he became active in promoting the struggle for recognition of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU). The Sugar Producers’ Association, for twenty-eight (28) years, resisted the recognition of GAWU. He said he did not spare any moment in promoting and participating in activities geared at strengthening GAWU as it pressed for displacement of the then incumbent union – the Manpower Citizen’s Association, which the overwhelming majority of sugar workers deemed a company union. On GAWU’s recognition in February, 1976, Cde Sookhnaryan became a member of the Union’s branch at Skeldon Estate. GAWU’s struggle for recognition having ended, the task of the union shifted to providing daily representation on behalf of union members to the management of the estate and the Corporation centrally. As a branch member, Sookhnaryan assisted in identifying workers’ issues which needed representation. In 1979, the workers of elected him as their shop steward, a position he retained until retirement, since at yearly elections he continued to receive the
mandate from his colleagues. He said that his association with GAWU in its many struggles earned him much knowledge and experience. He felt proud in representing his colleagues’ grievances, especially at those times when he was successful. He feels that the nationalisation of the sugar industry in 1976 was a milestone in the sugar industry. He recalled GAWU’s strong agitation and campaign which led to the nationalisation. He said that sugar workers and the unions must do everything to keep the industry a nationalised entity. However, he feels that the industry’s low sugar production must be addressed forthwith, lest the industry be imperiled to retain its current size and outlook. Cde Sookhnaryan recalled that he attended GAWU-sponsored seminars which enabled him to provide better leadership as a shop steward. He commended the Union for the construction of its own Labour College, which will promote labour education in its classrooms. At the Union’s 17th Congress in 2003, GAWU bestowed an award to him for his “Valuable and Dedicated Service to the Union”. The Guyana Sugar Corporation
adjudged in 2001 as a Champion Worker at Skeldon Estate, for which he received an awared. Cde Sookhnaryan said he is proud he contributed to the upliftment of his fellow man, and he did it selflessly. He wants others to make effort and sacrifice to serve the people. He said he is pleased that GAWU is living up to expectations and is taking a positive stand on local and international issues. Page Six
GAWU in soldarity with Greek Workers
Workers across Greece continued to lead the huge struggle in Europe in confronting the largest austerity measures which are been imposed on the people. There was an effective nationwide 48-hour strike on October 19 and 20, 2011 organised by the Greek Trade Union Federation (PAME) which caused a virtual shutdown of the country. It saw more than 70,000 people taking to the streets of Athens during a two-day national strike against the cutbacks which follow 20 months of deeply resented austerity moves. The Greek Parliament, on October 19, 2011, approved a new round of austerity measures which include further pension and state salary cuts, civil service staff cuts, a reduction in the tax-free threshold and a watering-down of collective bargaining rights for workers to satisfy the demand of European Union and its backers. The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), in a message to PAME, expressed “our solidarity with the workers, in this battle and struggle against the barbaric measures that are being promoted in Greece, such as the abolition of collective agreements, layoffs, cuts in wages and pensions, the wild tax policy, privatizations, the commercialization of education and health. Similar measures are being promoted in all
countries in Europe and throughout the capitalist world. These measures usually do not serve the national interest, but those of the monopolies and transnational companies.” The message went on to state that we need “to make every worker to understand, in order to make clear to the people, that the capitalist crisis is not caused by the debt, but because wealth and the means of production have been concentrated in the hands of a few, because the monopolies are becoming giant in all sectors.” “We agree with the direction of your struggle, that only mass popular organized labour struggle can prevent, not only unpopular measures, but it can also overthrow the capitalist path of development, which only provides new benefits for the capital and suffering for the people. The spontaneous and individual actions do not provide solutions. Just the indignation and anger do not give a way out either. We need conscientious, organized struggle. We express our support and solidarity with the strike of 48 hours that will stop production and will empty workplaces. We are inspired by the slogans you shout in demonstrations ‘the gear is not turning without you worker; you can be without bosses’.”
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has learnt from a usually reliable source that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) purchased brand new mill rollers just a few months prior to its closure of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) Sugar factory. It is understood that the rollers, which cost a few million dollars cannot be utilized at any of the Corporation’s seven (7) factories given its composition. What a careless and costly decision in a cash-strapped Corporation. Further it has been reported that Guysuco has almost G$300M (US$1.5M) in obsolete stock in its possession. The LBI factory was closed on March 18, 2011. Guysuco, in supporting its de-
cision to close the factory, pointed out that it was is highly underutilized, claiming that it was operating an average of 75 hours per week out of an expected performance of 135 hours. The Corporation failed, however, to point out that its neglect of the LBI cultivation over the past years was pivotal to the inadequate cane supply to the factory, hence the underutilization of the factory. The displaced factory workers were transferred to the neighbouring Enmore factory while some were retained to work at the LBI Field Workshop which is being expanded to facilitate machinery repairs work for other estates.
Source: Guysuco spends $$ on LBI Factory months before closure
COMBAT: September/October, 2011
GAWU reps meet Guysuco Tender Board Chairman
On (Friday) October 14, 2011, representatives of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on estate’s tender boards, field secretaries and other union officials commenced an interactive session with Guysuco’s Director and Chairman of the Corporation’s Central Tender Committee, Cde Keith Burrowes, who was accompanied by three (3) senior functionaries of the Corporation’s Materials Management Department (MMD). The discussions lasted almost three (3) hours, and it was in the form of a dialogue whereby Cde Burrowes and his team obtained from the Union’s gathering some shortcomings in the procurement system at the various estates. Suggestions
were offered on how to improve the system. The local tender board members requested that, in terms of construction work, members ought to have the right to examine the executive work. The Union’s contingent also pointed to the poor quality of boots, cutlasses and files which are being procured by the Corporation. Cde Burrowes promised to look into the issues raised by the representatives. At the conclusion of the session, Cde Burrows announced that a one (1) day workshop would take places on the newly updated Procurement Policy Manual of the Corporation. He advised that local tender board members and officials of GAWU and NAACIE would be invited to attend.
Another major religious observance has swiftly come upon us again, as another year had hurtled by. The Hindu festival of Diwali is with us, and it again assumes national proportions as even thousands of non-Hindus participate in the more symbolical and colourful spectacle of the celebration. The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) – itself home to thousands of Hindus members-associates itself with the more devout members of the nation’s Hindu community at this joyful time. For Diwali is a wonderful five-day festival. Whilst the celebrations vary slightly from India to Nepal to Sri Lanka to Mauritius and Guyana, the essence of Diwali is to rejoice in the inner Light (Atman) of one’s soul. Again, GAWU will not dwell on the legendary messages of Krishna, Vishnu, Bali, Prahalad and Mother Lakshmi through their roles. Rather, GAWU emphasizes the universal message and
value of the festival, which speaks of truth and goodness prevailing over the darkness that is evil in all its manifestations. However, GAWU wishes to indicate how practical the festival of lights could be. We urge devotees – indeed, all Guyanese - to let the figurative diyas illuminate their minds to research, analyse and draw conclusions in terms of how to choose a government; how to deal with fellow human beings; and how to negotiate harmonious relationships in everyday life. So, if a joyous celebration with its motorcades, its exchange of gifts and visits, its wondrous lighting up, can be made to communicate daily practical lessons, Hindus and all Guyanese must dedicate themselves to illuminating their actions through transparency in all of their daily personal and public dealings with their fellow citizens. Happy Diwali to All Guyanese!
GAWU Diwali Message
Global Crises & Global Governance
Continued from last edition “A central concern of the new thinking will be the need for a focus on sustainable development entailing an approach that would balance material wealth improvements with protection of the natural environment and ensure social equity and justice rather than a focus narrowly concentrated on economic growth and private wealth generation based on market incentives. Global solutions will be required for global problems; and, given the interdependence of these problems, policy responses will need to be highly coherent at various levels if the international community is to achieve the multiple objectives associated with fair and sustainable global development.” The Report on the World Social Situation 2010 revealed that the efforts to reduce poverty have also been set-back by the crises. The Report, at page 151, stated: “If the impact of the triple crises (food, energy and financial) is factored in, the outlook is not encouraging. Poverty eradication efforts are sagging under the weight of these multiple crises. The worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s has not only impacted the poor and the near-poor in the developing world, but also hurt a much larger proportion of the lower and middle classes in developed economies. Millions of jobs have been lost, as well as millions of dollars in individual savings and pensions. Consequently, many households now face a wide array of everyday basic concerns ranging from the lack of adequate income to meet basic household consumption needs, such as food and shelter, to the inability to pay for children’s schooling. In countries like the United States of America, many of these households are also close to financial ruin owing to health costs incurred after the loss of employer-provided health insurance. Left unattended, crises of this nature are likely to lock poor people
and their families into long-term intergenerational poverty traps while increasing the vulnerability of nonpoor families to poverty, as they exhaust household assets to pay for catastrophic expenditures. These crisis also undermine prospects for future growth by weakening the human resource base of countries through under-investments in children’s schooling, nutrition and health care.(Ravallion, 2008; Birdsall, 2002).”
In its assessment of the lessons to be learnt from the crisis, the Report questioned the premises of prevailing economic beliefs. On page 155, the Report, in a section entitled “The crisis: exit strategies” asserted: “The global economic crisis has shown that the premises of the prevailing economic policies, in particular the belief in the primacy of the market mechanism to optimize resource allocation and maximize welfare, were faulty. This failure, however, had been evident long before the crisis hit. It had been demonstrated by the inability of the prevailing approach to economic policymaking to deliver a significant and sustained reduction in global poverty and deprivation.” So far, the current economic crisis has not altered the dominant policy paradigm in respect of its prescriptions for development, although there is some concern with ensuring social safety nets for those most adversely affected. However, the gravity of this crisis should lead to a serious rethinking of policy approaches that have dominated the discourse on growth and poverty up to what brings about sustained growth of real output, employment and incomes, and promotes inclusive development which benefits poor people. It must be undertaken, and their findings elaborated appropriately. If the damage inflicted by the multiple crises on the lives of poor people is to be contained, there must arise a greater willingness to change.” Continued in the next edition
IT’s YOUR CHOICE When Workers Vote Continued from front page
and Caribbean arbitrators have failed to effect compromise from the TUC camp. All that was being requested by the 30,000 strong FITUG is that proportionality be observed and practiced and that meaningful reviews of procedures for selecting labour’s representatives to Boards and overseas fora, be effected.
Put another way, the bulk of this nation’s workforce is not benefitting from that which is their constitutional right - the right of association, especially to be members of a trade union of their choice. Yes, it’s an unpalatable fact that thousands of self-employed workers, top professionals, domestic servants, sales girls in hundreds Guyana’s “Voice of Labour” is, of stores and factories, security therefore, hoarse and muffled, guards, et al, these workers are resulting in a divided mass reprenot unionised. sentation, whilst putting smiles on some employers’ faces. Nevertheless, the unorganised combined with actual union Until the labour movement heals members add up to hundreds of itself then, it is left to workers to thousands - a significantly size- decide how they’ll vote on Noable chunk of Guyana’s elector- vember 28. Before casting that ate. The working-class, therefore, crucial vote of course, there will constitutes, perhaps, the majority be campaign meetings to attend, of those who will be voting come candidates to listen to, manifestos November 28. This is why politi- to be scrutinised and would-be cans, their parties and candidates Presidents to be examined. do their best to court and woo the Some questions for workers’ labour movement. Pre-polling day consideration and aids to deciendorsements by unions for par- sion-making would include: did ticular political parties boost those the incumbents pass enough parties’ standing and chances of work-friendly legislation? Whichvictory. But to what extent can party’s working-class credentials Guyana’s current labour move- are credible? Which party boasts ment influence the vote these more labour-movement oriented days? individuals or candidates? Which part has the best programmes for Local Labour, Expectations... women, mothers, employmentgeneration, investment and naAnother unfortunate fact with tional security. respect to Guyana’s Labour movement, resides in the division beAs the youth love to declare “We tween the two entities represent- Have the Power!” Guyana’s working organised labour - the majority ers do have the power - of the Federation of Independent Trade vote! Use it well come Election Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and Day, November 28, 2011. We need the minority grouping under the to continue rebuilding our econodescription of the Guyana Trades my to ensure the wealth generUnion Congress (GTUC). ated is discrimnately distributed to the ordinary Guyanese. Our The rift has its genesis in the “Old resourceful country must be able Boys Club” that was/is the pro- to boast within the next five years PNC Trade Union Congress (TUC) that poverty is at a single digit perwhich has resisted all attempts centage as we continue developand pleadings to reform. Local ing our country.
COMBAT is a publication of the Guyana Agricultural & General Workers Union (GAWU) 59 High Street & Wights Lane, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana, S.A. Tel: 592-227-2091/2; 225-5321 , 223-6523 Fax: 592-227-2093 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.gawu.net